Mike McQueary is looking to add even more speed to the stable of talented young receivers that will enter the program this fall. He doesn't have to go far to find prospects that will fit the bill.
Chris Bell (6-3, 205, 4.45, Granby HS, Norfolk, VA) Virginia has been very good to Penn State over the years, but recently, the emergence of Virginia and Virginia Tech has eroded the Nittany Lions' solid recruiting base there. The coaching staff is determined to regain their foothold in Virginia this year, and coaches Bill Kenney and Mike McQueary have their sights set on one of the state's best wide receivers, Chris Bell.
Bell caught 52 passes for approximately 700 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior. Bell also intercepted five passes from his safety spot and returned two punts for touchdowns. He earned all-state honors and was named the offensive and defensive player of the year in his district.
Football is not the only sport in which Bell excels. He has won three consecutive Virginia state titles in the 110 hurdles including a state record time of 13.99 seconds in the event this year. His track prowess translates well to the football field. Bell looks as though he is gliding down the field when he runs, and everything about his game is smooth.
In any other year, Bell would be considered the best wide receiver in the state, but this year, Virginia boasts three of the top ten wide receiver prospects in the country, led by #1 overall prospect candidate Percy Harvin. That doesn't mean college coaches have overlooked Bell however. He has been overwhelmed by the attention and scholarship offers he has received from schools across the country. Some of the major programs that have offered Bell a scholarship include Penn State, LSU, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State, Virginia and Virginia Tech.
Bell is fortunate to have two very supportive and caring parents to help him deal with the arduous recruiting process and find the school that will fit him best as a student, an athlete, and a person. He does not claim a leader at this point as he and his parents are still evaluating each school to determine whether they have Bell's best interests at heart.
Bell spoke with BigRedReport.com's Steve Ryan in mid-May about the kinds of things he is looking for in a school, saying "What a lot of coaches don't know is, I will be looking at the same things my mom and dad would look at. I look at how much they mention their school other than football. I don't know if I want to go to the NFL or not. I may just want to go to the business side of things and if they don't talk about anything but football, that turns me off of them a little bit, because I want to know about the school."
Bell expects to major in business administration and will look closely at the reputation of the business schools at each of the universities recruiting him. Graduation rates will also play an important role. Penn State's Smeal College of Business has a stellar reputation, and the football team's graduation rate is always among the best in college football. Add the program's emphasis on academics and the superior academic support available for athletes, and Penn State has a good chance of being in this recruiting race until Bell makes a final decision.
John Maddox (6-3, 170, 4.5, West Philadelphia Catholic HS, Philadelphia, PA) John Maddox appears to be the best wide receiver prospect in Pennsylvania for the upcoming season. He exhibits excellent technique and body control, shows no fear going over the middle, and possesses the speed to beat defenders deep. Maddox caught 23 passes for 505 yards and 11 touchdowns as a junior and added nine interceptions in the defensive backfield.
Maddox claimed ten scholarship offers early on in the spring evaluation period. Ron Vanderlinden and Mike McQueary are recruiting Maddox for the Nittany Lions.
When he last spoke with Scout, Maddox listed Penn State as his favorite, saying "I have seen their facilities and I love their campus. I feel pretty comfortable there. I went to their junior day (recently) and talked with Justin (King) and Derrick (Williams). It was a really good talk. They were recruiting me to Penn State and told me the reasons why they picked Penn State – great balance of football and academics. Plus, I feel comfortable with the coaches I know there."
Aaron Smith (6-0, 185, 4.6, Gateway HS, Monroeville, PA) Aaron Smith is coached by former Nittany Lion receiver Terry Smith, who also happens to be his uncle. Justin King is one of his best friends, Penn State was his childhood favorite, and Tom Bradley is recruiting him for the Nittany Lions. Smith should be a slam dunk for Penn State, right?
As Lee Corso likes to say, not so fast my friend. Smith has 17 scholarship offers at latest count and could be looking to blaze his own trail and get out of Justin King's shadow.
Last season, Smith completed 55 of 110 passing attempts for 1,188 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also rushed for 510 yards and six touchdowns, earning first-team WPIAL Quad-South honors. Smith will move from quarterback to wide receiver at the college level.
Smith will be active on the summer camp circuit, including a visit to Penn State for the inaugural Senior Position Camp. He lists the Nittany Lions among his favorites, although Maryland is the program recruiting him the hardest. When it's all said and done, however, the allure of fulfilling a childhood dream may be too strong to turn down. Smith recently told Scout's Jamie Newberg "I grew up a Nittany Lions fan and always wanted to play for Penn State. My uncle also went to school there and I like the coaching staff. I am really looking forward to camping there."